In 2015, Male went 38-9 along with an unblemished record in the seventh region. After obliterating opponents all season, the perfect cap to such a phenomenal year would be to end things as the new state champions. Well, they came close to that goal but ended up just a little short in last yearâ€™s state championship game against McCracken County.
Resolved, Male has bounced back and now is hungry for a chance to get back to state. â€œAnytime you get to that point of potentially winning a state championship, you want to get back. Everyone says they want to get back to try to win a state championship, but there are a lot of things you have to do along the way to give yourself that opportunity,â€ says Head Coach Josh Bloomer, â€œThe girls came back really hungry. The girls have worked hard on our hitting. We are at a point in the program where we have really been able to break down the swing … I really expect our numbers to go up in terms of doubles, triples and stolen bases. Just keeping that pressure on teams is something we can do to manufacture more runs.â€
Male is off to a hot start once again, having won five of their first six games. Theyâ€™ve manufactured 49 runs to their opponentâ€™s 11. Whatâ€™s interesting about this stat is that last year the Lady Bulldogs scored a lot of runs because they were a power hitting team. But after Amanda McIver â€“ one of their big home run hitters â€“ graduated, Male depends more on their speed to put up runs on the board.
â€œWe have great speed still,â€ says Bloomer. â€œ[Taylor] Childress is back in the lead off spot, and she signed with Western. We still have the ability to play the long ball to put pressure on the other teams. We have more speed overall throughout the lineup, and our kids who are not hitting the ball as the homerun have the ability to turn a double into a triple if you donâ€™t get good angles.â€
â€œMale will be fun to watch this season,â€ says Bloomer. He believes this is the first time the team doesnâ€™t drop off in talent in slots one through nine, which he says â€œallows me some freedom to give other kids an opportunity.â€
The talent level is there, but the challenge this season for Male to potentially get back at a chance to win a state title will be players getting more varsity experience.
â€œWe have a group of juniors who are just really good, and most have been in the program since their eighth grade year. The talent didnâ€™t drop off, but what we donâ€™t have is a lot of varsity game experience,â€ Bloomer adds. â€œThe tough grit and competing may take a bit longer because we have some kids learning the varsity level; they are really talented, but they have to get used to that speed and those expectations.â€
The catalyst for Male who will be able to foster more of that experience will be junior pitcher and first base player Olivia Suski. Last season, Suski was the other home run queen alongside McIver. She now comes into her junior season much more poised, and Bloomer wants her to embrace that leadership mantle as an upperclassman.
â€œSuski can still hit a ton of home runs. I think she is going to have a great year.â€ On the expectations he has for Suski, he says:
â€œI really want her to own being the person in the circle. For her, the maturity is there, and she has grown up in what the expectations for herself are. She has a lot of talent and everybody always told her she was good, but she is better than good, and I want her to own that a little bit more. But I donâ€™t want her to think it is all on her. I want her to be willing to tell a teammate what they need to be doing, not in a bossy way, but in a leadership role. I always say when the leader of the team says, â€˜My bad, youâ€™re right, Iâ€™ll fix itâ€™ when someone calls them out, then that goes a long way for everyone to see and say, â€˜If she is able to take that, then we all have to.â€™ More than that, I want her to have fun. She is a great kid, and itâ€™s not always the case where your best player is a great kid.â€
Suski will look to be great this season and be that driving force that gets the Lady Bulldogs back at an opportunity to capture a state title. VT